Edwinstowe is a lovely little Nottinghamshire village.......the kind of place I would like to retire to, right next to Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre (what else could you possibly want?). There are some rather nice looking bungalows in Church Street, across from the cricket pitch, which I definitely have my eyes on!
The name Edwinstowe means the ‘holy place of Edwin.’ Edwin of Northumbria c. 586 – 12 October 632/633 was an important Anglo-Saxon king-the second Christian king in England, baptised by Paulinus, the first Archbishop of York in 627 AD. Edwin was killed at a battle in a small hamlet called Cuckney (then known as Hatfield) by Penda, King of Mercia. Edwin's decapitated body was secretly buried in a clearing in the forest, to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. By the time his supporters returned to collect the body to take it to York for a proper burial, people were already calling him Saint Edwin. His body was later interred at Whitby Abbey (another place associated with Robin Hood).
A small wooden chapel was erected on the spot where Edwin's corpse had laid, and this became the site of the present St. Mary’s Church. The Domesday Book states, ‘in Edenstou there is a church, a priest and four bordars*’ (slaves* who worked on the priest's lands). In 1175 Henry II had this church, along with many others built of stone as part of his penance for the murder of Archbishop Thomas Beckett. Today, the carved heads of Henry and Beckett face each other amongst the stone pillars of the nave of the church.
It is likely that nearly all the English medieval monarchs visited this church at some time during a 200 year period, on their way to the nearby royal hunting lodge at King’s Clipstone. The villagers of Edwinstowe were bound by harsh forest laws, and courts to punish offenders were held frequently. In 1334 A.D. the Vicar of Edwinstowe, John de Roystan, was convicted of "venison trespasses," a major crime.
The tower of the curch is Norman and the porch, south door and font date from the 14th century. The broach spire was added to the Norman tower in 1400 A.D and the eight ornamental turrets date from around 1600.
By the main door of St. Mary’s Church stands the 14th Century font. This symbolises the entry into Christian life through baptism and is the traditional place for a font. Popular tradition has it that Robin Hood and Maid Marian were married here in St Mary’s. There was certainly some sort of church here during any of the periods ascribed to Robin Hood and although the entrance has been refurbished, it is likely that it was here in the doorway that they would have been married (as was the tradition at the time).